Voice search is dramatically changing the way users look for information. By 2020, it is estimated that 30% of online sessions will be conducted without a screen as voice search is expected to dominate the market.
For the uninitiated, voice search allows users to do various tasks, including browsing the web, without having to scroll through desktops or mobile. Users will just have to speak into the device installed with voice recognition software, as opposed to typing keywords into a search query. Speech recognition technology, paired with the device’s voice assistant, determines the request and executes it.
Some devices can be optimized for voice search, but brands, platforms, and websites can take advantage of it too. Therefore, it’s imperative for businesses to boost their voice search efforts to improve their search rankings and be seen by their target audience.
However, according to BrightEdge, around 62% of marketers have not considered voice search optimization yet. Whether you’re one of those in the 62% or have already tapped the help of SEO specialists that offer voice search SEO services, it’s high time you realize that voice search is more than a trend. There’s no better time to ensure that your content is ready for voice search than now.
How Voice Search SEO Influences Your Rankings
As smart assistants become smarter every day, searches done through voice are expected to continue growing in number over the next few years. If you want to prepare your site for the future, you should first learn and understand the elements of voice search SEO that can greatly affect page rankings.
Enhanced semantic context
Google’s Hummingbird was perhaps the signal that voice search would be more prevailing, as it brought semantic context into the picture. Semantic context, in layman’s term, is simply Google getting better at understanding the meaning behind what people are asking. The algorithm, paired with natural language processing, has changed to understand the intent of the search to provide them with more accurate answers.
No longer are keywords the only thing to focus on, but also queries structured in sentences or phrases. Aside from keywords, Google also looks at other factors to show better results, such as a user’s previous searches or patterns of searches. For content marketers, this means going beyond using keywords in your content.
The technology behind voice-activated assistants and search is not only beneficial to regular folks but is also especially useful for people with physical limitations. Those with vision impairment can access information, buy online, and contact others just by speaking to their devices.
People with limited dexterity also find it helpful that they don’t need a keyboard or touchscreen. For those with more critical movement issues, smart speakers allow them to control almost every aspect of their homes. It provides disabled users (and possibly the elderly) with a new avenue to be independent and maintain their daily routine.
Whether it’s a personal preference or necessity, accessing online information in various ways should be possible. For marketers, this means ensuring that your content is optimized for voice technology for the sake of those with disabilities as well as those seeking convenience. This can be achieved by following accessibility guidelines, like making sure that the material is machine readable for the search engines to properly index it, making it easier for users to find.
Improved user experience
SEO isn’t just about keywords and link building. To prove that, Google now considers different factors when ranking a site, and elements of user experience (UX) are the most important. UX, in this context, is Google giving the best results to the user, but the site’s interface is another thing altogether.
This means that aside from the relevant information, the site should also have a fast loading time on any device, have a simple architecture that makes it easy for users to find what they need, and be responsive. If your site loads slowly or looks wonky on any device, people will probably just leave, resulting in a high bounce rate. When this happens, your rankings will tank accordingly.
Increased mobile search presence
GlobalWebIndex found that 27% of mobile users globally use their device to do voice search. In addition, Google has set forth standards as to how companies can make their sites more mobile-friendly, prioritizing mobile-friendly pages when they detect that a user is browsing on mobile. These mean that integrating your mobile SEO strategy with voice search only makes sense.
For instance, it’s better to write short and straight-to-the-point sentences when producing content for mobile because people who are on mobile don’t want long sentences and big paragraphs that force them to scroll too often. Similarly, when your mobile assistant reads a search result, it’d be easier for the user to grasp short sentences.
Optimized local SEO
Voice is especially important in local business search. According to a survey, 58% of people have used voice search to find local businesses; and 46% of them do it daily. Technically, consumers look for the best companies depending on their need. And since search engines can identify location or study past searches, they can find a business located closest to the user.
Local SEO also makes directory and review websites essential for businesses. Some voice assistants even use third-party review sites to supplement the information they give, as smart assistants use other databases to answer queries.
How to Optimize Content for Voice Search SEO
Here are a few ways to ensure that your site ranks well for voice search.
- Cater to micro-moments
- Write the way you speak
- Use the same language as your customers
- Use interrogative words
- Use long-tail keywords
- Localize your writing
- Optimize for featured snippets
- Provide short and simple answers
- Break down content with subheadings, lists, and quotations
- Provide real value
- Don’t overdo it
1. Cater to micro-moments
Micro-moments, as defined by Google, are instances wherein users instinctively turn to their device “to act on a need to learn, do, discover, watch, or buy something.” These moments are intent-rich, “when decisions are made, and preferences are shaped.” The most likely device to turn to is a smartphone, and from here, you can see the overlap between mobile and voice search.
There are four kinds of micro-moments to take note of:
- I-want-to-know, or the basic research
- I-want-to-go, or looking for nearby businesses
- I-want-to-do, or learning how to do something
- I-want-to-buy, or searching for a particular product from a physical or online store
You can tailor the content to produce for these four micro-moments and address the searchers’ need. These are also good indicators of where the user currently is in the buyer’s journey, so you can determine the potential voice search queries they’ll make. You may include keywords for your local business and geo-location in the question to make the content more contextualized.
2. Write the way you speak
Google reported that 70% of queries done through their smart assistants contain natural language rather than common keywords used in web search. This is important because there is a huge difference between how a person speaks typically and how they communicate in writing, and that disparity is something you should be mindful about.
Naturally, in voice search, people use the more natural-sounding language, which might comprise of longer and more precise search terms. But this does not mean disregarding keywords completely; instead, you should focus on creating content that uses conversational language, directly answering questions through voice, and integrating the keywords you want to rank for.
3. Use the same language as your customers to find the products you offer
Every brand has a target audience that they need to appeal to; and when it comes to getting their attention, basic conversational language may not be enough. For instance, if your company is a speakeasy that caters to mid-to-upper class workers, you have to use the kind of words that they can easily relate to or use in their everyday life.
The gravest mistake is to overload your content with buzzwords that your market may not even understand to begin with. Keep in natural and adapt your content to use conversational language that your customers also use.
4. Use interrogative words
Closely related to writing using natural-sounding language is the use of interrogative words, or the what, who, where, why, and how that is typically used in a question. Question-based content is better for voice search and it can also be optimized by using specific keywords and phrases that are commonly found in related search queries.
Then, it’s a matter of integrating the query into the content and answering it too. You can make the content longer to optimize it better, but somewhere, preferably near the introduction, provide the answer to the question, so that search engines will effortlessly pick it up. Using interrogative words also align with the possible queries for each kind of micro-moment.
5. Use long-tail keywords
As mentioned, the terms used in voice and traditional search are different. To guarantee that your content is optimized for voice search, include long-tail keywords that make the search terms sound more natural. You can simply use Google Analytics to know the long-tail keyword phrases you need to gun for, and these usually include question words. From there, you can develop content to target these phrases.
Businesses can also look into customers’ phone calls to uncover the common questions they ask customer support. Test the long-tail keywords and content themes by using them on titles and FAQs page. Include keywords in the metadata, as well, and use structured markup to help search engines understand the material.
6. Localize your writing
According to reports, 22% of voice search queries are location-based or searches meant to find businesses close to the searcher’s location. These voice searches were likely done while on the move, made possible by smartphones and integrated location services. This means that it is now essential that brands invest in local content to have a higher chance of ranking for voice search.
If your business has a physical address, make sure that you are listed on all major online business directories like Google My Business, Yelp, and others. It’s a one-stop page for prospects and customers who may be interested in visiting your store and would like to know your address, business hours, etc.
You may also create location-specific content by using phrases like “near me” or the exact city/town. Encourage positive reviews from customers and be smart about using keywords in product descriptions. Optimizing for local voice search gives you an edge over the competition with help from geotagging, exact and question-based queries, and updated and consistent directory listing.
7. Optimize for featured snippets
Position zero or featured snippet is a highly valuable ranking because this is where smart assistants usually get their response in a voice search. It is essentially a summary of the search query from a web page. In desktop, featured snippets appear in a box below ads and before the organic results.
To optimize your content and get a chance to be a featured snippet, include a summary of your content in under 29 words. You should already rank above the fold, or on page one or among the top 10 of results since over 99% of featured snippets come from these.
Make sure also to use your long-tail keywords in the snippet or the keywords that usually pull up featured snippets when searched like best, recipe, cost, price, and definition. Sectioning with H-tags and using lists and bullet points can also help because they make the content easily readable for Google.
8. Provide short and simple answers
Just as humans don’t always communicate using very long sentences, lengthy phrases and sentences also becoming more difficult to comprehend. As mentioned, featured snippets should not exceed 29 words, so it’s only logical to assume that creating clear and simple responses on voice search queries can help optimize your content.
Answer the query with as few words as possible, or use one sentence to express one thought, and another one to answer one question. It’s also essential to keep phrases short; voice search results should typically be written at a 9th-grade reading level or lower. Try to break down high-level information to make it easy for anyone to comprehend.
9. Break down content with subheadings, bullet points, numbered lists, and quotations
In both traditional and voice search SEO, long-form content still ranks better, despite the focus on short phrases and snippets. Content should ideally still have between 1850 and 2500 words, but do be wary of large blocks of text. The importance of headings and lists has already been pointed out in creating featured snippets, but it’s good practice in content creation across the board.
In addition, since most people are using mobile assistants to do a voice search, it only makes sense to use subheadings, bullets and numbers, and quotations in your content as it helps optimize your layout when viewed on mobile. Don’t forget to break them down into short paragraphs and use plenty of white space.
10. Provide real value
Optimization should be a byproduct of content that delivers value. Content production may be affected if you’re always concerned about optimization, as opposed to just providing answers to users’ queries. If you don’t, they are going to move on. Depending on that interaction, whether they stick around or go somewhere else, there will definitely be an impact on your current rankings.
In addition, you should be optimizing for voice search because you, yourself, find value in it, whether it’s for delivering utility, simplifying business, or providing a kind of entertainment that other channels cannot. It shouldn’t just be because you want to be in voice. Offer a unique value proposition that only voice search can deliver.
11. Don’t overdo it
Despite the expected dominance of voice search in the future, there are still certain types of queries that you cannot speak out loud, especially if you’re on mobile and in a public location. This means that traditional SEO would still matter in the future and that you don’t have to put all of your efforts into techniques that only affect voice search rankings.
You want your content to be optimized for all kinds of searches. As mentioned, offering what your audience is looking for should be the priority, not optimization.
Voice search may sound like a fleeting trend or a party trick when you want to show off your voice assistant’s capabilities. But, as speech recognition technology becomes more powerful every day, there will come a where that you won’t have to swipe and type just to get something done on a device.
Investing in voice SEO can improve brand awareness and revenue. Optimizing today can help you get ahead of the competition. Voice search SEO isn’t rocket science. You only need to be human and produce content like how a human will because, at the end of the day, you want to resonate with your audience, who are human beings.